Curriculum design and development


The Polifonia Tuning working group has developed several tools for higher music education institutions in order to assist the institutions with the requirements proposed by the Bologna process. The group has studied issues related to curriculum design and development, and therefore has also dealt with three key elements that have been much talked about in European Higher Education in recent years and that have been given additional impetus by the Bologna Process:  Learning Outcomes, Credit Points and Quality Assurance.

The working group developed a handbook on “Curriculum Design and Development in Higher Music Education”. The handbook is intended as a short guide for those who work in conservatoires and are involved with organising the types and patterns of teaching that go on there. Its primary focus is upon the way that, in recent years, Curriculum Design and Development have become more consciously and elaborately embedded in the way the learning and teaching in conservatoires is run. The handbook addresses issues such as:

  • Curriculum design and development – what is it and what is it for?
  • Curriculum design: the holistic approach
  • The use of learning outcomes in curriculum design
  • The use of credit points in curriculum design
  • Reviewing and updating a designed curriculum: curriculum development 

Learning Outcomes for Higher Music Education and the ‘Polifonia/Dublin’ Descriptors


Higher Music Education: characteristics, learning outcomes and competences


The project “Tuning Educational Structures in Europe” aims to contribute to the elaboration of a framework of comparable and compatible qualifications in each of the signatory countries of the Bologna process. These qualifications should be described in terms of workload, level, learning outcomes, competences and profile. For this purpose, the Tuning project has developed a methodology, which will make it possible to develop this overarching European framework of qualifications.

The “Polifonia” project has also been involved in Tuning activities: the Polifonia Tuning working group has developed an overview of the Tuning activities in the professional music training sector, thereby using the standard Tuning template. This overview addresses the following issues:

• Distinctive characteristics of professional music training
• Typical degrees offered in higher music education and typical occupations of graduates
   in higher music education
• Learning outcomes and competences in higher music education– level cycle descriptors
• Workload and ECTS
• Learning, teaching and assessment
• Quality enhancement
• The international dimension of the music sector

Downloadable documents:

Tuning Educational Structures in Europe
- Reference Points for the Design and Delivery of Degree Programmes in Music

AEC Learning Outcomes for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd cycle

The main objective of the Polifonia ‘Tuning’ Working Group was to develop descriptions of learning outcomes for all 3 cycles in higher music education and to study the implications of using such learning outcomes in relation to other issues. These issues include the relation between competences and learning outcomes, the use of credit points, (competence-based) teaching and learning, assessment procedures, curriculum design, modular systems, credit-based structures, internal and external quality assurance mechanisms and more. In addition, the group’s aim was to ensure that the existing learning outcomes meet the requirements of the ‘Tuning’ methodology. Finally, the group monitored and gave advice on various current ‘Bologna’ developments, such as European approaches to external quality assurance and accreditation, the establishment of a European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and the use of the ‘Dublin Descriptors’ for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd study cycles.

The Polifonia 3rd cycle working group developed the learning outcomes for 3rd cycle studies in music.

Downloadable documents:

AEC Learning Outcomes for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd cycle (July 2009) English

‘Polifonia/Dublin Descriptors’

The so-called “Shared ‘Dublin’ descriptors for Short Cycle, First Cycle, Second Cycle and Third Cycle Awards” are general statements of the expected attributes of a student following completion of a short, first, second or third cycle study. The descriptors have been developed by the Joint Quality Initiative with a focus on general higher education.
Within the “Polifonia” project the question was addressed if those descriptors cover the music discipline with its individual requirements. This question has major importance as the connection between the overall frame defined by the descriptors and the discipline-based learning outcomes influences the formulation and validation of the latter.
The Polifonia Tuning working group reflected on this question and formulated the ‘Polifonia/ Dublin Descriptors for First and Second Cycle Awards in Music’. At the same time, the Polifonia 3rd cycle working group formulated descriptors for the 3rd cycle in music studies. The intention of the reformulation is to show clearly that most of the attributes formulated in the original Dublin Descriptors are applicable to the music sector as well. However, the identification with the descriptors is enhanced when terms are being used that describe the reality in the music discipline more accurately.

Downloadable documents:

‘Polifonia/Dublin Descriptors for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cycle Awards in Music’ (15/01/07) English

Learning outcomes / competences for pre-college music education

In order to create a link with the work done in the Tuning component of “Polifonia”, in which competences and learning outcomes were developed to act as reference points for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd cycle studies in music, the learning outcomes approach promoted by Tuning was also addressed by the pre-college working group. The Pre-college working group studied the different kinds of admission procedures and standards and their connection to or relevance / compatibility with the use of learning outcomes in the 1st and 2nd cycle. In addition, the working group formulated a set of competences that can be used by pre-college music institutions for the preparation of their students for the higher education level and that are connected to the learning outcomes for the 1st cycle.

Downloadable documents:

Set of competences for pre-college music education English 

The Use of Credit Points and Modules in Music Study


As part of the Bologna process developments in many countries, professional music training institutions face the challenge of implementing a credit point system or adapting an existing credit point system. In order to be of assistance in these often far-reaching reforms, the AEC has developed a handbook on the implementation of credit point systems and the use of modules specifically for professional music training institutions. It provides practical tools and different working methods, while taking into account several special characteristics of professional music training, such as artistic aspects and the highly individual modes of teaching in music training.

Downloadable documents:

Handbook for the Implementation and Use of Credit Points in Higher Music Education English


Also discussed in this handbook is the use of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) both as a credit accumulation system and as a tool for the recognition of studies in international mobility. The following documents give more information on this subject:

Downloadable documents:

ECTS User's Guide of the European Commission English
3 Presentations on Credit Point Systems   English